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The Purpose of Outdoor Warning Sirens

There are many areas of the country that are frequently impacted by tornadoes and other severe weather. In those parts of the country many people rely heavily on tornado sirens to alert them to immediate danger.

But there are some important things about tornado sirens that you may not know. For example, sirens have a specific purpose, and many people either don't know or misunderstand the reason they're there. The vast misconception is that you can count on outdoor sirens to alert you when you are indoors, especially at night. That is not their design. Below is what you need to know!

Tips You Should Know

  • The siren will be activated by city officials when there is a significant severe weather warning or tornado warning issued by The National Weather Service for Faulkner County.

  • Did you know that sirens are only designed to be heard while you are outside? Many people rely on them as a warning system wherever they are but don’t realize that they likely will not hear them indoors.

  • There is no nationwide requirement for tornado sirens. The National Weather Service issues watches and warnings but it is up to the local governments to have a community readiness system in place for their citizens.

  • Tornado sirens only have an audible footprint of one to two miles, meaning that you have to be within that, in any direction, of the siren to be able to hear it. Keeping that in mind, during the rain and hail that comes along with many severe storms, it becomes even harder to hear a siren at a distance. Wind speed and direction will also affect that sound range.

  • They are not precise. Almost all tornado sirens in the nation are set to sound for any county-wide tornado warning instead of for storm-specific warnings which means that often times when they are sounding you are not in immediate danger.

  • According to the National Weather Service, the sirens are an alert to observe conditions around you. If there is a visible, imminent weather threat…immediately take shelter in the safest structure available. If there is no sign of an imminent threat, go indoors and immediately get additional information about the storm from a local television station, weather radio or online.

  • When a siren stops sounding, it does NOT mean that the potential weather threat has passed. Across Arkansas, sirens are generally sounded for about three minutes, NOT until the threat ends and again…the sirens are meant to alert those who are outdoors.

Tornado sirens are a valuable tool in helping to keep the public safe but they should not be the only way that you get warned about dangerous weather.

The Vilonia Department of Emergency Management suggests numerous layers of protection against severe thunderstorms including storm specific products, NOAA weather radios, various smart phone weather alert apps, Faulkner County Code Red for a heads up, and a television tuned to your nearest television news station that takes severe weather coverage seriously.